I have three related posts on this interesting topic:
- AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR VOCABULARY @ HIGH SCHOOL
- FUN AND EFFECTIVE WAYS OF LEARNING VOCABULARY @ HIGH SCHOOL 1 & 2
SOME researched comments on how VOCABULARY affects comprehension include:
- Vocabulary knowledge is directly related to comprehension.
- Increased vocabulary instruction increases comprehension more than any other intervention.
- Fluent word recognition affects comprehension.
THE ACQUISITION of vocabulary is one of the most important tasks in language learning. If you have enough words, you can make sense of what you are reading or listening to and you can somehow express yourself.
Gathering Words – Tried and Tested Method
When I was growing up I expanded my vocabulary through collecting relevant and useful words. Here are some ways that have worked for me:
- First, find ways to expose yourself to new words: read and listen to a variety of books, articles, television programs, and videos (see if you can find the spelling of the new word from the subtitles, if need be).
- Next, you will record the new words that you discover. Write down new words as you hear or read them — use a notebook or flash cards to collect vocabulary.
- Later, when you have time, look up your new words in a dictionary.
- Write the definition and an example sentence in your notebook or flash cards. Also, as you read textbooks and class materials, pay attention to words that are used often or that are important for understanding concepts in your program.
- You will want to take time to learn these words.
In short, vocabulary acquisition is much more important than grammar. The grammar we have is acquired gradually as we become familiar with the language, with the words, but first of all we need words.
How Do We Learn Vocabulary?
The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. – Michelangelo
Vocabulary knowledge is not something that can ever be fully mastered; it is something that expands and deepens over the course of a lifetime. Instruction in vocabulary involves far more than looking up words in a dictionary and using the words in a sentence.
Moving Words From Short-Term To Long-Term Memory
When you first hear or read a new word, it enters your short-term memory. Short-term memory can only hold new words for a brief period, usually seconds. To move the new word to long-term memory, you will need to ENCODE, STORE, and RETRIEVE the word.
1) When you ENCODE, you give meaning to the information. As you study vocabulary, you will learn the different meanings the word can have. You may also compare the English word to similar words in other languages you know.
2) To STORE the material, you will use strategies to review the word’s meaning. Regular review and repetition is important for learning new words.
3) When you use a new vocabulary word when speaking or writing, you RETRIEVE it. This creates strong knowledge of the word in your long-term memory.
19 EASY WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR VOCABULARY
Set A Specific Goal
Learning new words requires a commitment. Since you’re less likely to hear sophisticated vocabulary in daily conversation, take matters into your own hands and teach yourself new words. Set a goal such as, “I’ll learn one new word each day” or “I’ll try one suggestion on this handout every day during semester break or summer.”
Spend 15 Minutes Every day Reading
As you read a novel, newspaper or a weekly newsmagazine, circle unfamiliar words. When you finish the article, return to these words and use context clues to try to determine meaning. Then look the words up in a dictionary, comparing your definition with the actual definition. Add each word, its definition, and its sentence in a vocabulary notebook or onto a web site like http://www.quizlet.com for later review.
Use Quizlet To Review The New Words You Learn
Go to http://www.quizlet.com and enter your words. The program will generate quizzes and games custom-made for your word list.
Do Crossword Puzzles And Other Word Puzzles
Although some crossword-puzzle words are obscure or seldom used, some words will increase your vocabulary. And the information in crossword puzzles may increase your background knowledge.
Write, Look, Cover, Repeat (WLCR)
This is the ultimate classic. For me, vocabulary learning has always been a notebook and a pen. The physical motion of writing something down is very useful as it satisfies the needs of haptic learners. Take a pad, draw a vertical line in the middle and write the word on one side in your native/source language and on the other side in your target language. Memorise the list, then cover one side and tick off all that you remember. Then repeat.
“Use A Word 3 Times And It’s Yours!”
It’s that simple. If you don’t make an effort to use new words you learn, you’re likely to forget them.
Using words make them a permanent part of your vocabulary. You know common words like “cow,” “walk” and “pleasant” because you have been doing FOUR things:
- You’ve heard them frequently.
- You’ve read them frequently.
- They may have been taught to you.
- You’ve used them many times in your speech and your writing.
If you don’t routinely hear or read words like “catalyst,” “disparage” or “aberration,” use them at least three times in your writing or your speech. Gradually they will become a part of your vocabulary and ultimately you will surprise yourself and many others within your circle.
Many words are made up of parts of other words. So this one requires a bit of study, but it will make your vocabulary learning the smartest it has ever been. Become familiar with prefixes and suffixes, word roots and common sources of target language words.
In short, this means BREAK LONG WORDS INTO PARTS. If you can remember the meaning of prefixes (e.g. con-, anti-, pre-) and suffixes (e.g. -ly, -able), it will be easier to predict the meaning of new words you encounter.
Use Index Cards (4 X 6) To Make Vocabulary Flash Cards.
As you try the suggestions here, don’t just read about a new word or look it up in a dictionary. Make a vocabulary flash card. On one side of an index card, write the new word, its part of speech, and its phonetic spelling including Greek or Latin word parts and on the other side, write its definition and any related word parts.
Carry these cards with you to review. Before you write papers, flip through your cards. This increases your chance of being able to use one or two of these words in your writing.
Read, Read and More Reading
The more you read, the more you learn. You will pick up new words without even realizing it when you read. Reading lets you see how words are used in sentences, and lets you understand them through context clues.
- SAT Word List: There are even some books that are meant to teach vocabulary. These are usually written for students studying for the SATs, but they make a great tool for anyone who wants to learn English because they have definitions of many of the words right there in the book.
- COMICS: If the SAT text is too difficult for your English level, you can try reading comic books instead. Comics have a lot of dialogue, and their text is in smaller, easier to understand parts. Superman, Batman, and the other well-known heroes are full of words for you to learn. If you don’t like superheroes, there are many other options out there, like Calvin and Hobbes or even Garfield.
Thus, it’s important to read a variety of materials. The more you expose yourself to new words, the more words you will learn.
Use Your Senses As You Learn
Associate vocabulary with pictures or gestures. This will help you recall the new words better than writing or speaking alone. Using more than one of your senses as you learn new words promotes the development of a strong word network in the brain. This helps you retrieve new words when you write or speak.
Learn New Words In Context
Use example sentences as you gather words. Try making up a funny story with new vocabulary.
As you create and use a vocabulary learning system, you will grow in your ability to understand what you hear and read. You will be able to communicate your thoughts clearly and precisely.
If you just learned the word “care”, don’t stop there! Use a dictionary or the internet to find derivatives of that word, and expressions that use it.
For example: careful, carefree, careless, take care! See? You started with one word but quickly learned four more, and because their meaning is related, it is easier to understand and remember what each one means.
Use Context Clues
ALWAYS try to determine the meanings of words and don’t skip over unfamiliar words. Try to determine meaning by analyzing unfamiliar words and the sentences surrounding them. Careful analysis can often give you a pretty good idea of what the word means. Mark the word with a pencil.
When you finish reading, look up the word in a dictionary to see if you were close. Although context clues may not always be present, looking for them can sharpen your comprehension.
These are ways to help us remember things better.
A great online resource for mnemonics is the mnemonicdictionary.com; you can type in the words you want to remember and you will see many different ways to help you memorize.
Use Vocabulary Web Sites
There are some websites with a “Word of the Day,” which may be useful for increasing your vocabulary:
- – http://www.m-w.com/game/ (This site is by Merriam-Webster dictionary.)
- – http://www.vocabulary.com/
- – http://www.wordcentral.com
- – http://www.wordsmyth.net
- – http://www.worldwidewords.org/
- – http://home.earthlink.net/~ruthpett/safari/index.htm
- – http://www.nytimes.com/learning/students/wordofday/index.html
These web sites have a “Word of the Day” feature. Subscribe and a new word will be sent to your e-mail address every day. This is an easy way to build your vocabulary:
- – http://www.dictionary.com
- – http://www.m-w.com/game/
- – http://www.wordcentral.com
- – http://www.wordsmith.org
Making sentences helps us put everything we have learned into action: so you have learned a new word and you understand when to use it. But for the brain to remember this word in the future, the best way to memorize is by using it. Try to make sentences that use different meanings of the word you want to learn or, if it is a verb, with different tenses.
Use Specific Vocabulary Lists
Instead of studying a long list of unrelated words, use specific vocabulary lists that will help you learn the kind of vocabulary you need for your work or school.
By hearing your own voice say the words out loud and feeling your mouth move, you are making even more connections in your brain.
So, use a camera, your phone or your webcam to record yourself practicing your new vocabulary words and using them in the sentences you made.
LASTLY, Dear Reader . . .
Repeat, REPEAT and REPEAT yourself
An old English saying: “repetition is the key to success” is applicable here. To learn anything you must repeat, repeat, repeat. So every day, set aside some time to study vocabulary. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it is important that you practice a little daily. This will create a good habit.
Good luck in all your endeavours.
As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL
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